The Most Inane – or Most Useful Writing Tip Ever. You decide.

Much as I despise admitting it, words don’t always come to me as quickly as they once did. There’s nothing like having a word on the tip of your tongue, then have it dart away and zip around your brain like a fly trying to dodge a swatter. Recently I endured a particularly bad bout of what-is-that-damn-word-I-had-it-a-minute-ago-and-it-went-away-and-then-came-back-and-then-went-away-again-itis. The little devil of a word taunted me, hovering at the cusp of memory and then darting off again. I tried to find words like it but none of them were right. I tried all manner of writer and mystery thesauruses, and nothing landed. In desperation, I finally tried this:

1. I made the face I felt expressed the #$!@* word I was looking for. I held the face and the feeling for a few minutes. The word grew closer… but wasn’t quite there.

2. I took pictures of my face expressing the feeling of the word, or at least what I could approximate, and studied the photos…

3. I closed my eyes, made the face, and felt the word again.

Finally, FINALLY, it came to me! The word I was looking for was “rueful.” Do you see it in these photos? Maybe a little? I know, it’s kind of nutty. Or… brilliant? As I was going through this I couldn’t decide if I was on to something or losing my mind. All I can say is the process of feeling the emotion of the word, creating a visual, and linking the two up got me out of my word-fly-swatting stasis.

It’s for sure a time-consuming process for one li’l ol’ word. Still, we all know that feeling when we want the exact right one and nothing else will do. So at least I have a fallback in the search for it.

Let’s just hope that after this laborious journey, I used the word correctly … she wrote ruefully.

Readers, have you created your own way of finding a word or an item or anything?

47 thoughts on “The Most Inane – or Most Useful Writing Tip Ever. You decide.

  1. Oh, please my dearest El, that is how I live my life! If I want to tell someone something- I must write it down. IE: I know I’ll be talking to my daughter this evening. She has her own list of “stuff” on my desk that I need to ask her or tell her. It isn’t even that I haven’t spoken to her in a while, either. My desk is a list of notes. Best of luck trying to decide what paper belongs to what person! LOL! So you searching for that #$!@* (I had to look above for proper spelling) word already puts you miles ahead of me. You lost one word. I lose complete trains of thought! LOL! XO PS: I did see ‘rueful’ in those pics. I think you’re brilliantly losing your mind. If a mash-up of the choices is acceptable. 😉

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Tracy, so sorry! I’m in NY at my mom’s and totally off my game. I knew it was Tracy and typed Tom. Talk about a brain fart. It’s like when I have an appointment at 5 and I know it’s 5 but I show up at 4 because my brain effed up. Do you know what i mean???


  2. I feel for you, Ellen. There are times I simply cannot find the word I’m looking for. In desperate times like that, I go to my thesaurus. Flipping through the pages is time consuming, but it usually gets the job done. Usually, that is.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. The Apple Thesaurus built into my apps gets me through most of those tough moments. However, if that elusive word still hovers beyond my reach, it reminds me of trying to retrieve a beach ball from the swimming pool with one hand — darn near impossible. Then, in a quiet moment, that word dances across the stage of my mind like the Rockets. Go figure!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I LOVE your system! I will be having a conversation with hubby about something and get to a point that I want to make or a name I can’t think of. I stop and say, “That isn’t the right .” I can see it in my mind but it just won’t come. I can hear it in my head, but it is like conversation in a far away room. We finish what we were talking about, and go about the rest of the day, but that word I was trying to think of, or that name just won’t come to me. It drives me nuts. But then out of the blue, sometimes in the middle of the night much to hubby’s chagrin, I will blurt it out. It is such a good feeling when that word or name finally appears.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. When I’m drafting, I just use a placeholder if the word doesn’t come immediately. Like Carol, usually it hits out of the blue and if I’m lucky, I’m near pen and paper or my phone so I can text myself. But sometimes it still isn’t there. In that case, if a quick search of my well-worn thesaurus doesn’t pan out, I go to my search bar and just start typing the words I’m dancing around. Almost always a better one—if not the actual one—pops up and then my thesaurus can do the rest. But omg, what an ordeal it is sometimes to find an itty bitty word! So satisfying when you can find it, however.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Ha, El, what an ordeal! I would never have considered taking pix of myself while in such desperate throes, but it’s a cool idea. I usually just type “XX” and highlight it in Track Changes–or, as Becky does, I google close words or phrases. It takes me so long to write anything, though, the words are usually magically cemented in my brain by the time I input them.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I don’t find words flying out of my mind, but complete thoughts seem to like to leave and random intervals. And it’s very frustrating. Plus, I’ve always come up with what I wanted to say later. It’s why I would have been horrible at debate in school. I know I disagree, but I can’t articulate why until much, much later.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Boy, do I ever! And as I like to say, proper nouns are the first to go. Oy. But all words are now fair game for this old gal.

    And speaking of games, I think that would be a fun one: Take a photo of yourself acting out an emotion, and then others have to guess what it is. Kind of like emotional charades….

    Liked by 4 people

  9. When I am at a loss for words or I go to do something and then I can’t remember what I was going to do, I pass through a portal and then back again and it usually comes to me.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You just walk through a doorway and back through the same doorway. It can be any in your house, but I was told this a long time ago and for some reason, it has worked for me. It is like I lost my thought or word and when I walked away and then reentered the space I had been in before, I suddenly remember. Sounds kind of sci fi, right?

        Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m so relieved I’m not the only who experiences the elusive word problem! If I can’t immediately find it by searching phrases in google or by using an online thesaurus, then I’ll leave a blank underlined and highlighted space in the document and come back to it later during the first rewrite and the word generally makes itself know… and then all I can think of is how I could have been so stupid to not have remembered the word the first time around.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. No worries, El. I was just afraid I was confused again about the Chick’s schedule!
        And your rueful pics are adorable!


  11. I think it’s BRILLIANT and I love the pics!

    My secret is to ask someone who can basically read my mind what I’m trying to say. My son is usually tasked with this. It reminds me of my mom’s old grocery lists:

    “Get those good cookies I always like.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. How funny – and yes, you do look rueful, Ellen. I usually leave it alone and the word comes to me – quite often at 3am.

    Names challenge me on this more than anything. Last June, I was at my college reunion and a friend and I were talking about a guy I knew from the men’s swim team. I knew his first name, Lance. I finally remembered his last name.

    Three days ago. Yes, almost four months after the conversation.

    Of course I texted my friend to tell him.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to have a friend in high school who would add into a conversation we were having with someone at a party, “Hi, Lisa hasn’t introduced us yet,” and then look at me, waiting.

        Liked by 1 person

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